Thursday, May 31, 2007
Just when I think I’m done, I get pulled back in again! I thought I’d reviewed all the Starburst on the market today when I saw that the Starburst Sour have new flavors.
It’s not like I was that thrilled with the original set of flavors in the Starburst Sour array, so the new ones might be better.
As luck would have it I picked up the new flavors, then saw the original flavors at the 99 Cent Only Store. Before you go thinking that this will be a redux of the LifeSavers, both of these products are fresh.
Original Starburst Sour were manufactured in June of 2006 with an expiration of 8/2007. New Starburst Sour were manufactured in December 2006. (Curious how I know this, check out What Does that Mars Code Mean?)
Here’s the flavor breakout:
Sour Tangerine (was Orange) - I really had to work hard on this one. The wrappers were the exact same shade of orange and the candies were the exact same shade of orange. I had to admit that the new Sour Tangerine was different from the orange. It had a “high note” of orange and tartness that just wasn’t in the original. I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but I’m glad there’s something citrus in there.
Sour Green Apple (was Cherry) - I was pretty surprised that this wasn’t in the original mix. It’s definitely a synthetic sour apple taste, but it’s quite intense and of course sour. It has some nice real apple juice notes to balance it out, especially as the chew goes on.
Sour Strawberry (was Grape) - While I enjoy a sassy tart and crispy apple and even a juicy tangerine, I have a hard time with sour strawberries, as they’re so much better when they’re sweet and ripe. It smelled like strawberry - a cross between summer flowers and cotton candy. The chew though, was a little less pleasant. It was sour but it didn’t match up with the flavor, it was like a blind date that was going horribly, uncomfortably wrong. It made me break out in a sweat twice, not because it was too sour, perhaps because of the red food coloring. I didn’t eat the third one in the mix.
Sour Blue Raspberry (same) - still an insane blue, still an unnatural flavor for food. Tart and a little on the lime side, a little bitter/dry aftertaste that I kind of liked it this time around.
Overall, I prefer the much more rounded flavors of the classic Starburst. I can see these being a nice change of pace and if I were doing more bike riding or running where I wanted a little something to get rid of dry mouth, this might be the stuff because they’re so portable and of course a good variety in every pack.
Some of our wheat sensitive friends will be happy to hear that the new packaging now says that New Flavors Starburst Sour are Gluten Free (please make sure that your package says that if you’re gluten intolerant since the old flavor set does not say that!).
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I tried the Nestle Dark Stixx last year and thought they were pretty good. They’re a little crispy cookie wafer in the form of a tube filled with some cream and covered in chcoolate.
The Butterfinger Stixx were introduced at the same time, but it took a little while for me to find them super-cheap. They were stupidly expensive at $2.29 for a box of 6 when they came out. But at the 99 Cent Only Store this little package of two was a respectable 33 cents and still fresh (expiration July 2007).
What’s great about these is the one thing that you can’t get in a Butterfinger ... real chocolate. Not that the chocolate is great, but you know, if it’s not tasty at least it’s not fake.
The package describes this rather oddly with a little four point diagram:
What I suspect after reading that is that this is more like a Butterfinger Crisp bar (which may be running one of the lamest commercials of the year, sorry, as far as I’m concerned that girl has to be high if she’s enjoying a Butterfinger Crisp and thinks that’s really laugh-out-loud funny).
The little stick has that familiar peanut butter and buttered popcorn scent. The sweet chocolate and bland crunch of the wafer are a nice combo, not too sweet. The creamy center is nothing like a Butterfinger, it’s soft and reminds me of that peanut butter filling that comes inside those cheesy orange peanut butter crackers. The peanut butter flavor is pretty mellow and rather lost. It’s sweet and a little salty, not very creamy and not really notable beyond that.
The little sticks are tasty but not very satisfying. I completely missed the “sprinkle of candy bits”. On the plus side, this didn’t stick to my teeth like the industrial-strength-cement-like Butterfinger filling can. I think if I’m looking for a stick shaped peanut butter candy I’ll stick to Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars. (No chocolate, but still tasty.)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
As a kid the best caramels I ever had were the ones that my grandmother would make every holiday season. They were large, two bite caramels usually studded with nuts. She’d make them fresh in large batches and give our family a large tin of them. They were the size of my thumb (my adult thumb, not my child-sized one) and wrapped in twisted wax paper.
Dense, firm and chewy they were the perfect combination of sugar and butter. Later, for my sixteenth birthday my grandmother gave me the recipe (along with a candy thermometer, which I still have). A simple concoction of sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk and butter, it was the careful boiling that made all the difference. I’ve made a lot of caramels since then. No two batches are the same (though hers were always consistent).
For years I looked for a mass-manufactured version that would satisfy that desire for some chewy burnt sugar and dairy fat. The closest thing I ever found were See’s caramels, but those weren’t easy to come by when I lived in the far recesses of Northern California. Kraft caramels, while interesting don’t have that chewy pull and a rather bland flavor. Marathons were long gone, Rolos are too runny and don’t even get me started on the sauce bar known as Caramello.
Enter the Storck Chocolate Riesen, a popular candy in Germany and later covered in chocolate and introduced in the United States. Sure Grandma’s caramels were plain and these were chocolate, but the essential texture was there. I found them for the first time at the Canned Foods Warehouse in Eureka, CA. Those were the days where I was on a limited budget but still found some discretionary cash for such indulgences. Riesen put me over the moon when they had them in stock.
The caramels are individually wrapped, a dark and chocoatey caramel covered in dark chocolate.
They smell luxurious, like sweet chocolate. One bite and there’s a soft and slow chew as the chocolate melts and the dark burnt flavors the caramel start to burst through. The caramel is smooth and rich and not even terribly sweet.
Riesen are still made by Storck in Germany, who also make the indulgent Toffifay, creamy Werther’s, sassy Mambas and elusive Merci. In case you’re wondering, Riesen means “giant” in German. I wonder if they also make a plain caramel, I’d love to try it.
If you’re someone with a real chocolate jones but on a limited diet, this might make a good indulgence. The candies are individually wrapped, so it’s easy to parcel them out for portion control. Yes, three of them have 170 calories, but only 6 grams of fat that belie the deep and satisfying chocolate experience. Instead of gnawing on something that just leaves you unsatisfied, why not have a long-lasting creamy chew?
They should really make these in single stack-packs like they do with Mambas. I would probably buy these much more often if I could find them with the other candy bars instead of the peg bags at the grocery/drug stores. The caramel is above and beyond anything that you’d get in a Milk Dud (and these have real chocolate on them) or Snickers bar.
These caramels do have whey in them (and other dairy products) so I’m not sure if it’s processed in a vegetarian manner. Yes, I bought these at the 99 Cent Only store, but they have an expiration date of 2/2008 on them ... they were definitely fresh.
Friday, May 25, 2007
I’ve been looking at Crunky for a few years now. It’s not the name that threw me, it just didn’t seem that appealing. Why buy a Japanese or Korean cheap chocolate bar when we have plenty of them here in the States. But I knew I had to give it a try eventually.
Lotte is a huge company, based in both South Korea and Japan, so there are lots of places where you may see these bars in Asia.
Crunky Chocolate - Salted Caramel - the description on JBox said that this was a salted caramel bar. I was expecting, as the picture seems to have, some chocolate and some caramel. Instead it’s some sort of a white chocolate bar with a salty and caramelized flavor. It also has the malted crunchies.
The wrapper isn’t in English so I’m at a loss to read the rest of the description, but as far as I’m concerned, this is not chocolate. It doesn’t taste like chocolate, it doesn’t look like chocolate. It might be shaped like chocolate, but it’s not. Perhaps it’s off-white chocolate.
My feelings of betrayal aside ... it’s nice, and I actually grew rather fond of the not-so-sweet taste. The slightly burnt flavor was also nice as were the crunchies with their malty hit. But the texture of the chocolate itself wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t creamy, it didn’t melt in my mouth. It got soft, it was rather smooth, but it felt more fudgy than chocolatey.
Crunky Chocolate - my feelings for the first bar I tried were set aside for this experience. It looks rather traditional, like a Krackle or Nestle Crunch bar, but the chocolate is definitely lighter. It’s certainly well packaged. The easy to open
box reveals a large flat bar (well, mine got a little bent in transit from Japan) wrapped in a light matte foil.
The chocolate is a little waxy, but very smooth. The flavor is more milky and perhaps a little burnt tasting as several people have mentioned to me. The quality is no better than Hershey’s or Nestle’s standard consumer fare, but perhaps a bit different. I liked the format of the bar, I’ve always found Crunch bars a little too flat, I want the crispies to be really surrounded (I rather prefer the Easter egg versions).
Neither of these set my world on fire. Every country has to have a crispy chocolate bar. I like the name, it has a good onomatopoeiaic sense to it. If I were in Japan or South Korea I would probably pick these up as a “safe” choice, but I don’t know if I’d mail order them again. (But they could probably sucker me with some limited edition variety ... because I’m a sucker like that.)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
These Lotte chews were given to me by a co-worker of my husband’s who just returned from South Korea. She brought me lots of goodies (some which I’ll get to in the coming weeks). These were fascinating because they were pomegranate but also because they appear to be knock-offs of Morinaga’s HiCHEW (or maybe progenitors ... I’m not sure of the history of these things).
The package is partially in English on one side and in Korean on the other. There’s 2% of something in here, according to the English side ... I’m going to guess 2% real fruit juice.
The chews differ from HiCHEW in a couple of ways. First, the little rods are square, not rectangular.
Second, they’re colored on the outside and white on the inside. HiCHEWS are colored on the inside and white on the outside.
There was no way to do a complete head to head since these were pomegranate flavored. The chews were a pleasant pink color. Soft and though chewy and yielding, not quite as latexy as the HiCHEW.
They were tangy and fragrant and reminded me of raspberry more than pomegranate. Pomegranates are naturally a rather dry flavor, but share a lot of similarities with raspberry. I still think I prefer the Citrus HiCHEW, but I’ll keep my eyes open for other varieties of Chew-Lets at the Korean/Japanese grocers.
It’s not at all big news when Jelly Belly brings out a new flavor. They’re in the business of flavor and it would only be news if they weren’t.
So why should I report on a single new flavor coming out? Especially when I blogged about it back in ‘05? Mostly because of some trends: Pomegranates are big. Functional (fortified) foods are big. Antioxidants are big.
The Pomegranate Jelly Belly contain additional vitamin C (an antioxidant) and they’re made with real pomegranate extract. Besides, they’re pretty, too.
I first tried the new pomegranate flavor when I visited the Jelly Belly factory in December 2005. This was just after the release of Jelly Belly Sport Beans, they were still tinkering with the flavor then, and as far as I know, there wasn’t any fortification in them.
After trying the Sport Beans I was pretty sure Jelly Belly could make a go of antioxidant beans - a sassy combo of citrus flavors, I think, would work well to give folks a little boost of vitamin C and some beta carotene. Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, Tangerine, Orange, Lime and maybe some more exotic citrus like Key Lime, Yuzu, Pomelo, Dalandan or Ponkan.
The shell has a nice deep tartness to it, with some strong berry flavors like raspberry. The jelly center has good floral tones with a mellow and dark note. Kind of like black cherry, kind of like cranberry and perhaps like pomegranate. There’s no zappy dryness to it, like pomegranate often has.
It’s pleasant. It’s certainly easy to eat them one after the other. They combine well with both citrus and other berry flavors.
They’re the same price as the regular beans and are also sold in 9 ounce bags and 5 lb bulk boxes on their website. I don’t expect them to show up everywhere you see Jelly Belly, but keep an eye out. They might be a good little boost for yourself during cold & flu season (anything to help you rationalize eating jelly beans).
Jelly Belly are Kosher, vegetarian and use beet sugar instead of cane, however some vegans may not wish to eat them because they use beeswax as part of the sealant/shiny coating.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
These are freakish, disarming and charming all at once. I don’t know why I ordered them from JBox, but I’m certainly glad I did.
I thought that the Puccho line is really inventive. If you’ve never had them they’re a chew studded with bits of gummi and then other candy, usually little sour or fizzy nuggets. I know it sounds weird but it really works.
JBox.com called this variety Baked Puccho—Custard Cream. But from the package and taste I’ve decided it’s really creme brulee.
The chew is a light vanilla, smooth though not quite as bouncy as HiCHEW. Then as the chew continues there are little grainy sparkles of caramelized sugar and then soft and dense nuggets of caramel flavored gummis. Creamy and crunchy and chewy.
It sounds weird, I know, but they’re completely addictive and I’m sorry I didn’t buy more (especially since they’re currently out of them). They’re satisfying in that they make me feel like I’ve had a decadent fatty custard but they’re also so engaging because of the chew that I want to keep it going.
The other flavor they have in stock at JBox right now is Mikakuto Baked Puccho—Baked Apple & Cinnamon which also sounds pretty weird, but judging by my first impression of these, they’re probably very good.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Jelly Belly is introducing a new product to their Confections line. Not quite a jelly bean and not quite a gummi bear, these are Licorice Bears. I previewed these little guys at the Fancy Food Show in January but it was nice to have more than three to give them a real taste drive.
These sassy, spicy and soft bears aren’t quite like black vine licorice either. The texture is rather like a smooth gumdrop. They’re made with corn syrup and a potato starch base, which makes them softer on the tongue and easier to dissolve than a wheat & molasses based vine. (All that ingredient talk really takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?) The natural and artificially flavored bears are super sweet but have a nice woodsy and clear licorice/anise flavor to them.
The size and shape is rather close to the Haribo bears I’m so fond of.
I would find these irresistible in a bowl or jar in front of me. The bag I got as a preview sample from Jelly Belly is just about gone (and I just got it on Friday, which is saying a lot about my lack of control). I much prefer these to the black jelly beans, something about the consistent texture that I really like. Unlike Black Crows, they don’t stick to my teeth in the same way, either.
I’m not sure how easy these are going to be to find, I even had trouble finding them on the Jelly Belly site at first . But the price is decent enough, only a little more than Jelly Belly beans at $4.99 for the half pound bag. I’m rather fond of Licorice Pastels and I’m wondering if these could be panned with a crunchy candy shell ... that might be heavenly.
There’s no gelatin in this product, so it’s suitable for vegetarians (and I’m pretty sure they use American-grown beet sugar as well in all their products, so these would be okay even for vegans). There’s also no wheat in there.
(As a silly side note, I took that photo of the bag of Licorice Bears seen at the top. Later I went to the Jelly Belly site and found that while my photo looks lovely and professional, it also looks exactly like theirs which led me to wonder why I bothered taking mine. Oh well.)
UPDATE: It looks like Jelly Belly sent these samples out to a few places. Candy Addict’s Caitlin just posted her thoughts as well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.